Involve indigenous people to protect mountains, say experts

New Delhi, March 19 (IANS) The mass exodus from mountains to plains is a worrying trend and indigenous people, especially youngsters, must be involved to protect the flora and fauna on hills, experts said Tuesday.

Speaking at a seminar organised by the Indian Mountain Initiative (IMI), Water Resources Minister Harish Rawat said climate change is posing challenges before the country and governments but it should be seen as an oppurtunity for mountain states.
“Himalaya is the largest reservoir of water and biodiversity and any climate change solutions have to start from mountains. It has brought the focus on mountain states. We have to involve indigenous people to protect the forests and mountains,” said Rawat, who hails from Uttarakhand, one of the 12 mountain states in the country.
“The sad part is that there is mass exodus of people from mountains to plains and mountains are slowly getting deserted with people leaving to cities in search of oppurtunities,” he said.
P.D. Rai, MP from Sikkim and convener of the seminar, emphasized the need to involve youngsters in the process of protecting mountains.
“More and more people are leaving villages in mountains and villages are getting more dependent on cities. This trend has to be changed,” said Rai.
Some of the speakers called for amending environment policy to balance ecology, economy and sociology for a sustainable development in the country.
“About 20 percent of world population consumes 80 percent of the resources in the world and that is the imbalance which needs to be checked. We have to change environment policies, keeping in mind that people and sustainable use of resources are ingrained to its core,” said Hem Pande, additional secretary, union environment ministry.
Planning Commission member Sayida Hameed called for involvement of women and children in any policy and initiative taken to protect mountains.
“Role of women rarely makes it to any policy documents although they make half of country’s population. We in Planning Commission have called for a multi-sector action across all government departments to include women in their policies,” said Hameed.
The Indian Mountain Initiative is a civil society movement that aims to bring stakeholders of the mountain and hill States on a common platform to come together to discuss issues related to the development of the mountains and hill regions and communities, evolve consensus on priorities and action plan.